Andhra Adventures VIII: Borra, the Cave with a Hole

Located in Eastern Ghats of India, in Ananthagiri Hills of Araku Valley, about 90 kms from the coastal city of Vishakhapatnam,Borra Guhalu is one of its kind natural wonders of India.
It is the biggest natural stalagmite and stalactite cave in the country. These caves are found in various parts of world and their ages are always stated in hundreds of millions of years, a number that you and I cannot even comprehend. I have seen similar caves in Texas, USA, Slovakia and in our own Meghalaya. They are very similar with natural growths from the ceiling and the floor, sometimes they come together to form pillar like formation, and otherwise the random formations can make your imagination run wild. These caves usually come in the path of a river and you can see the flow of water through them. Borra caves are the origin of Gowstani River that flows from here to Vishakhapatnam.

 

  

 

In India of course the caves are not as well maintained and because of human touch, most growths have stopped, and there is no restriction on touching. Having said that they are a part of the culture here and not just another scientific or archeological discovery. They are living caves in a sense as we have a way of finding divine everywhere, so the growths from the floor often get treated as Shivalingas, and other formations can resemble other incarnations of Gods, their vehicles, auspicious signs and sometimes even the legends from the historical texts. In Borra caves you can see many Shiva Lingas, one of them is converted into a small temple and can be approached by a steep narrow staircase only. Formations formed through the water falling are called Jalashilas or water rocks locally. There is Sai Baba, there are temples, there is Sita’s bedroom and bathroom, from where comes the yellow water that is supposed to be the Haldi or Turmeric water from her bath. Scientifically, it is just the Sulfur giving color to the water. There is a formation of a human brain, a corncob, monkeys, sitting elephant, running horse, Hanuman’s feet and his Gada or mace. At places the walls shines because of the presence of minerals like Magnesium and Silica. What is worth noting is a huge end-to-end joint in the rock, which is amazing and locals call two sides divided by the joints as Luv and Kusha, Sita’s two sons. Light falling out of the hole above illuminates the caves beautifully and in many ways depending on where you are standing in the cave. Human brain formation is also curious as it not like a traditional stalactite or stalagmite formation. Towards the end of the cave you can see the reflection of the cave in water, suddenly doubling the size of the cave with interesting illumination.

 

Borra caves are spread across three levels and only the middle level is open for public. The level below and above is not so safe for general travelers. Bottom level also connects to the river below and hence can be dangerous. Do stop by to have a top view of the river that flows between white marble rocks that are common around the area. Our guide told us that the cave has a free entry on Shivaratri when all the tribal communities of the region come here to worship. At the entrance of the Cave, opening is huge and you can see the expanse of the cave with people looking like tiny dwarfs. Two Nandis have been placed at the entrance giving the impression of whole cave being a Shiva temple and is he not actually known to be cave dweller!

 

Borra means hole in local language. Cave has a hole right on top and that is how it gets its name. Legend is that a cow fell through this hole and that is how the local tribal population discovered the cave and the source of the river and named the river after the cow’s udder. At a point you can see an udder like formation with water dropping from it directly over a Shivalinga. Modern history traces the discovery of the caves to the British Era when King William George of Geological Survey of India discovered in some 200+ years ago. Anthropologists have discovered stone tools from the caves indicating that these caves were inhabited probably 30,000-50,000 years ago.

 

 If you travel by East Coast Railway’s train to Borra Guhalu, guide will tell you that just before hitting the station, the train track is actually going above the caves and sure inside the caves you can see a railway sign board telling you the same thing along with all the numbers. AP tourism has done a decent job of putting a paved path in the caves and some lamps that make it possible for the visitors to move around in the cave.

I would put Borra caves in the list of must visit places, both for the caves and train journey that takes you there through many tunnels.

 

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